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Homepage / Sheep-dipping, Centres of Competence, Infective Networks and Other stories

Sheep-dipping, Centres of Competence, Infective Networks and Other stories





Up Till Now:

Until recently, during our trials and tribulations working on Business Change Programmes, we have come across two main-stream approaches to driving new learning throughout an organisation:

  • So-called Sheep-dipping approach: This is where large swathes of the organisation are deemed to need upskilling in some new technique necessary to support the Change Programme. A prime example is the approach we have seen many times over is with 6-sigma:
  • A training company is selected
  • Staff are chosen (to some it may seem at random) to attend
  • Much information and material is delivered to the staff
  • The staff return to their daily business and never use the material again!
  • Or the Centre-of-Competence / Centre-of-Excellence approach: This is where a central team is selected who are inculcated with the new techniques to the level of experts (some may describe them as zealots). We have observed this with the advent of Evidence-based Policing:
  • A team is selected, usually based on competence in the technique, but not always in its practical application
  • Libraries of education and training material are developed
  • What works (usually without context) information is collated, and so-called “Best Practice” developed
  • Sometimes, the techniques can be presented as “this is the one and only way to do this”
  • Centre-of-Competence experts then either “search for” or are “assigned to” programmes and projects to attach themselves and impart Best Practice
  • And when this fails, they experts return to the Centre and become more inward-looking, failing to add value to the organisation.


And I’m sure some of our readers have seen approaches akin to Dilbert’s boss, or worse!

Infective Network:

Working with a large public sector organisation in the North West, a different approach has been developed to support rolling out new methods of Understanding Demand, impacting all corners of that organisation. There is a compact team mainly staffed with operational professionals, along with a small number of central staff. In addition, a so-called “Demand Network” has been established with the idea of “infecting” the organisation. This Network comprises mainly operational professionals – people who want to make a difference in their daily business. The Understanding Demand Team then have run regular seminars exploring new techniques, learning material, participative workshops, etc. The Team has invited participants of the Network to offer up their own projects that they believe will benefit from application of these new techniques.

They are creating a “Pull” system, rather than a “Push”.

Currently there are 40-plus projects identified, and the corporate body is being successfully infected. There is more to be done to ensure the momentum is maintained, and, crucially, to prevent the corporate body from “healing” itself and going back to its old ways or working.

We’ll report (to you and Dilbert!) more on this next time around to establish if this beats either of the two more classic approaches outlined above.

Watch this space!

David Anker

Written By: Cranfield University

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